1. Begin with a Positive Attitude
Dive into the position with the attitude that you're there to learn as much as you can while getting paid for it!
2. Take Risks
Remember that you're not only on a Co-op work term to make some cash for school and expenses, but to gain experience and enhance or develop skills. It's important for you to take on new initiatives and tasks that you may not feel comfortable with at first. In the end you'll have improved your skills or realized that, in fact, that particular job maybe isn't for you at all.
3. Analyze your Surroundings
One of the first things to do is to get a feeling for the 'office customs.' Is it important to follow a chain of command when trying to complete a task? Are you permitted to speak to the Director? Can you speak casually with your boss or is it more of a professional relationship? You'll get a sense of all this just by looking and listening to how people interact around you (and obviously through office gossip)!
4. Ask Questions
Employers like to see that you're keen to learn and do a job properly. They say that we learn from our mistakes; however, they may often cause a corporation/business a lot of money and then our jobs! In some cases questions can also help develop a relationship between you and your employer or co-workers.
5. Introduce Yourself to Everyone you Work with (Even the Cleaning Staff!)
It's important to make a personal connection with people you're working with. It's much easier to ask someone who knows you for a favour and they may even be willing to go out of their way to do something for you. You may even want to pay special attention to the tech/IT people.
Your networking should begin as soon as you start your position. Remember that your co-workers can be the best personal public relations department for you. They will usually provide you with references in the future and may refer you to others who could help you along your way.
Begin to build professional and interpersonal relationships with your colleagues. If possible, have lunch with your co-workers, and maybe go out after work for a drink. It's always beneficial to also learn about your co-workers in a personal, rather than just a business way. It often makes working with people more comfortable and reminds us that everyone actually is human after all!
8. Take Pride in your Work
If you're enthusiastic about your work and aim to impress, then the results should be rewarding. Quite often your supervisor will realize your abilities and offer you more challenges.
9. Be Professional
Remember that you're representing the University and also creating a reputation for yourself! Even though a day spent photocopying and filing could be frustrating, employers notice your attitude and the way you present yourself. It's not a good idea to be swearing at the photocopier all day!
10. Have Fun
This is your opportunity to not only gain valuable career-related experience, but also to develop as an individual and to enjoy life outside of school.
Three additional tips provided by OLC Community Members:
Communicate your interests, learning objectives and career goals to your supervisor since there may be related projects that you can become involved with during your workterm.
Becky Hong, Business Co-op Student
Prioritize tasks in the order of importance and develop a schedule to manage your time.
Alan Tam, Business Co-op Student
If you are unsure about whether you have done a good job on a project, take it upon yourself to be appropriately proactive in seeking the feedback that will allow you to move forward. Managers frequently are busy and do not realize that they have forgotten to let you know how you did, and so they do not always take the initiative in giving you feedback.
Wendy Cheung, Intended Business Co-op Student
What tips do you have for co-op success? Share them in the comments below.